Song of the Day #3,577: ‘Celebration’ – Kool & The Gang

I first watched my favorite 2017 film three months into 2018, on a small seatback screen during a flight from Florida to California. Less than ideal conditions, which makes my ecstatic reaction to The Florida Project even more legit.

I have since watched Sean Baker’s film two more times under better conditions, and those viewings have only solidified my opinion that this is not just the best movie of last year but one of the best of the decade so far.

Baker has directed a half dozen films, but he first hit my radar (and widespread acclaim) with 2015’s Tangerine. That micro-budgeted film was famously shot entirely on iPhone 5s smartphones, but what makes it great is how it treats its subjects (two L.A. transgender sex workers) with empathy and grace. It is also a very funny movie about a very sad existence.

The Florida Project doubles down on everything great about Tangerine and works twice as well. Set in a run-down motel in the shadow of Orlando’s Disney World, the film follows a struggling mother and daughter and the motel manager who serves as a father figure to his desperate tenants.

Baker likes working with unknown actors and landed two extraordinary ones for his leads. Brooklyn Prince, six years old when the film was shot, plays Moonee, the film’s protagonist. Her mom Hailee is played by Bria Vinaite, discovered by Baker via Instagram, in her first acting role. Both actresses are award-worthy, and an Academy less obsessed with sticking to the usual patterns would have nominated them for Lead and Supporting Actress.

Willem Dafoe did land an Oscar nomination for his work as Bobby, the motel manager, and deserved the win for his powerful, subtle work as a man whose job requires him to toe the line between guardian and guard.

The Florida Project is so well-realized that it often feels like a documentary. Detractors have argued that the film has no plot. On the contrary, it is meticulously scripted, each vignette serving as another stepping stone toward the film’s inevitable conclusion. Baker does find room for moments of visual poetry, such as a rainbow spanning the width of the hotel or a flock of heron Bobby playfully ushers out of his parking lot.

This is 2017’s saddest film but also one of its funniest. By telling the story from the perspective of a child, Baker finds wonder and humor among the desperation. Moonee is a few miles but a thousand light years away from the Magic Kingdom, yet she finds a way to turn her bleak surroundings into her own form of amusement park.

Of course that fantasy can’t last forever, and The Florida Project‘s ending powerfully marries stark reality with the dream of escape. Some viewers were confused or disappointed by the film’s finale — I was devastated.

I saw myself on screen. Not in the scrappy survivors I’d come to care so much about, but in the people who pass them by, oblivious to their plight. How many times has my family driven by those same motels, filled with Hailees and Moonees, on our way to the most magical place on Earth?

[Intro]
(This is your celebration)
(This is your celebration)
Celebrate good times, come on (Let’s celebrate)
Celebrate good times, come on (Let’s celebrate)[Verse 1]
There’s a party goin’ on right here
A celebration to last throughout the years
So bring your good times and your laughter too
We gonna celebrate your party with you
Come on now

[Hook]
(Celebration) Let’s all celebrate and have a good time
(Celebration) We gon’ celebrate and have a good time

[Bridge 1]
It’s time to come together
It’s up to you, what’s your pleasure?
(Everyone around the world come on)

[Pre-Hook]
(Yahoo) It’s a celebration
(Yahoo)

[Hook]
Celebrate good times, come on (It’s a celebration)
Celebrate good times, come on (Let’s celebrate)

[Verse 2]
There’s a party goin’ on right here
A dedication to last throughout the years
So bring your good times and your laughter too
We gonna celebrate your party with you
Come on now

[Hook]
(Celebration) Let’s all celebrate and have a good time
(Celebration) We gon’ celebrate and have a good time

[Bridge 1]

[Pre-Hook]
(Yahoo) It’s a celebration
(Yahoo) It’s a celebration

[Hook]
Celebrate good times, come on (Let’s celebrate, come on now)
Celebrate good times, come on (Let’s celebrate)

[Bridge 2]
We’re gonna have a good time tonight
Let’s celebrate, it’s all right
We’re gonna have a good time tonight
Let’s celebrate, it’s all right, baby
We’re gonna have a good time tonight (Celebration)
Let’s celebrate, it’s all right
We’re gonna have a good time tonight (Celebration)
Let’s celebrate, it’s all right

[Pre-Hook]
(Yahoo)
(Yahoo)

[Hook]
Celebrate good times, come on (Let’s celebrate)
Celebrate good times, come on (It’s a celebration)
Celebrate good times, come on (Let’s celebrate)
Celebrate good times, come on (Come on and celebrate tonight)
(Baby everything’s gonna be alright, let’s celebrate)
Celebrate good times, come on
Celebrate good times, come on (Let’s have a great time, celebrate)
Celebrate good times, come on

4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #3,577: ‘Celebration’ – Kool & The Gang

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    While I appreciated this film, I am one of those detractors who found much of it meandering and plotless. It was not, in my opinion, the best film of the year, let alone the decade. And while DeFoe was very good, the Oscar win rightly belonged to Sam Rockwell.

    I did, by the way, like the ending of the movie. It encapsulated joy and heartbreak in a beautiful moment of magical realism. More of that and 20 minutes less of watching the kids run around the motel would have worked better for me.

  2. Peg says:

    I plan to see this now that it’s out on Amazon or Netflix. If the movie is half as good as your review it should be amazing.

  3. Maddie says:

    I also viewed this on a plane and plan to revisit it on a nicer sized screen soon. I was really impressed by the whole piece, but particularly in awe of Brooklynn Prince. She should have been recognized a whole lot more. Everyone else was great too, though I will stick to the belief that Sam Rockwell deserved his win.

  4. Clay says:

    I don’t want to give the impression that I’m anti-Sam Rockwell. I’ve always been a big fan of his and have no problem with him winning the Oscar. They were both great. I just would like to have seen The Florida Project receive some Academy love, and Dafoe was its only chance.

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